Lunch is a great way to break up the day with something that will keep you fueled and feeling good for the rest of the afternoon. It plays a crucial roll in determining the way the rest of your afternoon will go. With a good set of low carb lunch ideas, it’s easy to avoid the afternoon crash and continue having a productive day.
We have all experienced that feeling around 3 pm where we can hardly keep our eyes open, and even coffee doesn’t seem to do the trick. Usually, on those days, lunch is something too heavy or with too many carbs.
With a high-calorie lunch, the body spends a lot of energy trying to digest the food. Too many carbs will cause a spike in blood sugar, and then a corresponding crash. As a result, you may feel tired, sluggish, or craving something sweet. This can make the afternoon in the office feel hours longer than it is, and often you are much less productive.
Opting for one of many low carb lunch ideas will allow you to avoid the dreaded 3 pm energy crash.
If you are packing lunch for kids, it may require a bit more planning and preparation. This article has low carb lunch ideas for the kids’ lunchboxes as well.
Low Carb Lunch Ideas for the Office
Avoiding food waste is a key goal when packing lunch, so most of these low carb lunch ideas are inspired by leftovers.
I try to keep meal prepping and planning as simple as possible and I typically only prepare breakfast and dinner for the week. As a result, lunch is usually an afterthought that is made up of leftovers, or whatever I can find in the fridge.
Kitchen Sink Salads
A salad is one of my favorite low carb lunch ideas. It takes more planning than the other options, but you are free to customize the ingredients to whatever you are craving.
A “kitchen sink salad” is generally made up of extra ingredients in the fridge or pantry. For example, if I am preparing taco bowls for dinner one week, I will use up leftover olives, lettuce, and tomatoes in my salad.
These are also great for using up the last bit of something. If there is only half of a serving of shredded chicken left in the fridge, throw it in the salad and combine it with other delicious ingredients.
Salads are great because the combinations are endless, and it’s a light and filling meal.
For dressings, I always use Primal Kitchen Foods dressing. They are made with avocado oil instead of inflammatory vegetable oils. Check out my article on Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratios for more information on the importance of limiting vegetable oils in the diet.
Since I am only feeding myself, any dinner family-sized dinner meal will leave me leftovers for days. I will use the leftovers in lunches, or for dinner the next day.
The key is to make sure that the meals are delicious and you look forward to eating them as leftovers. We’ve all had the experience where last night’s dinner is sitting in the fridge and we conveniently “forget” about it and pick up Chipotle instead.
If you are feeding several people, double or triple dinner recipes so that you have plenty of leftovers. Store these in the freezer, or in meal prep containers to grab and take for lunch throughout the week. This reduces preparation and cleanup time, and it will make it easier to stay on track.
Some of my favorite low carb lunch ideas are minimal-ingredient ground beef meals. They are delicious and reheat very well. Here is an article that lists a few of my favorite recipes.
I grew up loving frozen dinners. Although they are never as good as a home-cooked meal, there is something so satisfying about sticking a tray in the microwave, waiting three minutes, then having a full meal ready to eat.
There are a few keto-friendly microwave meals on the market that are great low carb lunch ideas.
Microwave meals are a happy medium between a home-cooked lunch and fast food. They are more expensive than preparing the food from scratch, but the portions are usually more appropriate for a lunchtime meal than a restaurant’s.
Real Good Foods is my go-to when I don’t have any low carb lunch ideas and I need something quick and delicious. I always have a few boxes of their enchiladas and chicken crust pizza in my freezer. Their enchiladas are my absolute favorite, and they’re just the right size for a quick lunch. The tortilla is made from chicken, and each meal has only 4 net carbs.
Real Good Foods has other great options like chicken crust pizza, chicken alfredo, and chicken poppers. All of these low carb lunch ideas from Real Good Foods make great options for snacks as well. Sometimes between lunch and dinner, I’ll air fry a few jalapeno poppers and have them with Primal Kitchen mayo or ranch as a snack. It sometimes turns into my dinner as well because they’re so delicious that I end up eating the whole box. Oops.
You can find Real Good Foods products online or in many stores, including Walmart!
One of the easiest low carb lunch ideas is simply a collection of keto-friendly snacks. It may not be the most nutritionally optimal, but it is quick, convenient, and having a few delicious keto snacks on hand can help you avoid the drive-thru at lunch.
Check out my article for keto snack options that can be purchased online for some of my favorites.
Mixing sweet and savory snacks can make a delicious and satisfying meal at work. My go-to savory snacks include:
Fast food is definitely not the best lunch option. The food is usually cooked in inflammatory oils and ingredients are probably not great quality. On top of that, it is more expensive than a meal-prepped lunch.
That being said, there are situations where eating out is necessary for lunch. Check out my guide to fast food on keto for low carb lunch ideas when eating out.
Low Carb Lunch Ideas for Kids
If you are responsible for preparing lunches for the children in your household, you know that keeping things fun and exciting is a must.
Unfortunately, there are not many quick grab-and-go low-carb lunchbox finds for kids at the grocery store. However, there are easy ways to remake the classic lunchbox favorites, and there are plenty of low-carb snacks available online that all kids will love.
Homemade Pizza Lunchables
My favorite Lunchable as a kid was the build-your-own pizza kit. Outer Aisle Gourmet offers sandwich thins made from cauliflower. They remind me a lot of the small pizza crusts that come in the Lunchable pizza kit.
Simply place all the ingredients in a separate compartment of a bento box or other divided lunchbox. At lunchtime, the kids will be able to assemble their own pizza, without the processed carbs from the pizza crust.
Cheese and Crackers
Cali’flour Foods has delicious cauliflower thins that are great cracker alternatives. One of my favorite snacks is a handful of these crackers with some salami and cheese.
This is also one of many easy low carb lunch ideas for the kids’ lunchboxes. Swap out the salami for oven roasted turkey, bacon, or pepperoni for some variety.
Meat sticks easily fit into a lunchbox, and they can be a great source of high-quality protein.
I would recommend finding a brand that has quality ingredients. One of my favorites is Nick’s Sticks. They’re available in several grocery stores, and online.
As a kid, I loved placing a black olive on each finger of my hand and pretending that I was some sort of alien. I think most kids share this memory, and it shouldn’t stop with my generation.
Olives are a great snack, and they can be easily found in single-serve packs, which are convenient but not as cost effective.
I really enjoy the Olove brand olives because they have several varieties of flavors. Some of their packs are green olives, and others are black as well
One of my favorite snacks that I’ve had for as long as I can remember is celery and peanut butter. It’s an all-time favorite and a quick go-to snack.
Check the ingredients to avoid added sugars and oils if possible.
Cheese chips are great because they are salty, crunchy, and are often available in plenty of delicious flavors. Most grocery stores carry cheese crisps now, but you can also purchase them online.
KE sells delicious high quality, low-carb granola. The granola is made from coconut, collagen, almonds, cacao and does not contain any sweeteners. KE has three varieties of granola including Spiced Mexican Chocolate, Cinnamon Nut Crunch, and Chocolate Crunch.
Homemade granola is also great because it can be customized to whatever flavors your kids want. I’d suggest a combination of coconut flakes, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and Lily’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips.
Nuts are a great lunchbox snack. There are several types of nuts that fit well into a low-carb diet. This article goes into detail about the best low-carb nuts.
For a fun twist, there are several options for flavored nuts as well. Legendary Foods has seasoned almonds is all sorts of delicious flavors including Pizza, Tangy Ranch, Wasabi Soy Sauce, Buffalo Blue Wing, and Cheddar Bacon.
Legendary Foods sells these seasoned almonds in individual packs that are easy to throw into a lunchbox.
If there wasn’t a Cosmic Brownie or Zebra Cake in your lunchbox growing up, did you even have a childhood?
There was always something special about finishing the last of your Lunchable and then being able to dive into whatever cookie, cake or brownie was hiding safely away from your peers at the bottom of the lunchbox.
New low-carb desserts are popping up every day, and so many of them are a perfect finishing touch to any of the low carb lunch ideas.
There are plenty more than what is listed here, but for even more options, check out my article on over 40 low-carb snacks that can be purchased online.
A chocolate bar never disappoints. If your child doesn’t care for dark chocolate, there are several sugar-free milk chocolate bars available on the market, like the bars from Lily’s Chocolate. Just avoid maltitol and IMO fiber on the ingredient list.
This article on the best low-carb chocolate bars is a great place to start looking for options.
Most fruit is avoided on a ketogenic diet, but many fruits can be enjoyed on a standard low-carb diet. Berries are a perfect low-sugar fruit. A small orange or kiwi will also make a delicious sweet treat after lunch.
For more information about fruits on a low-carb diet, check out this article.